Led by women for women from its inception, one of the nation’s largest private women’s Catholic universities recognizes a historic national moment.
The significance of witnessing the inauguration of Kamala Harris, JD as the first woman to serve and lead the United States as a Vice President is unquestionably historic. At St. Catherine University, it is a time to reflect on the knowledge gained from a century’s-worth of women’s leadership. This is an exciting time not just for our nation, but for all the future leaders who will witness the history of the next four years of the Biden-Harris administration.
An important milepost on a long journey
“The concept of women as leaders is nothing new at St. Catherine University,” said ReBecca Koenig Roloff ’76, president, St. Catherine University. “We’ve walked the talk for over a century, and take great pride in our graduates who have gone on to lead in health care, classrooms, communities, and governments. Today is a significant milepost in a long journey that is far from over.”
A record 144 women, or 27%, joined the 117th United States Congress when it convened earlier this month. Here in Minnesota, 72 women will sit in the state’s 92nd legislative session — quite a few more than the 4 women who sat in the state’s 43rd session back in 1923. St. Catherine University is pleased to congratulate a number of alumnae who are seated in this session, and who continue to work across all levels of government to create a more just and equitable world for us all.
On campus, Antonia McHugh, CSJ served as St. Kate’s first president after the school received its accreditation from the North Central Association. The leadership under women continued throughout the years, making St. Catherine University the only Catholic women’s college to be women-led. With women leading the school, St. Catherine became the first Catholic college or university to be awarded a Phi Kappa Phi chapter - the third college or university in the state of Minnesota to receive one.
Did You Know: First Woman U.S. Vice President Candidate was a Katie
Many history fans associate the honor of the first woman United States vice presidential candidate with the late Geraldine Ferraro, who ran in 1984 with DFLer Walter Mondale. But a look back in history shows the first major party candidate represented by a woman appeared on ballots in 1948. And, she was a Katie. Grace Holmes Carlson ’29 ran as the Socialist Workers Party vice presidential candidate in the 1948 presidential election with Farrell Dobbs as presidential candidate. She had been jailed under the Smith Act for opposing the United States’ involvement in World War II. In the 16 months she spent in prison, Carlson started helping her fellow prisoners, and later advocated for improved prison conditions for women. In 1950, she ran again as a U.S. House of Representatives candidate for Minnesota's 5th district. Carlson would leave the Socialist Workers Party two years later, and later taught nursing at St. Mary’s Junior College (which became part of St. Catherine University).
The Future Leaders
With a culture and legacy of challenging and encouraging women to step up and lead, St. Catherine University sees examples of future leaders all around campus. “They may hold views on opposite sides of the important issues, but they lead their constituents with the same guiding principle: to change this world for the better,” said Roloff.
“As an institution of higher learning and as one which particularly educates women to lead and influence, we recognize this proud historical moment when a woman, who is also a woman of color, ascends to the second highest position in our land,” said Roloff.
Congratulations to Vice President Harris, and to each leader who steps up to take office, make our laws, lead our communities, and create a more just society.